Saturday, September 30, 2006

Confessions of a Sybarite (like a hedonist, only more so)

Because this is the fasting month, I want to talk about food.

Moderation in all things, after all. Especially moderation. If you're gonna pig out, you may as well make it worth it.

Let me amend that. If I'm gonna pig out, I may as well make it worth it. (I want to look on my fat kindly, tracing every bulge with fondness)

Right, we did a lot of walking in England. Jackie and Simon are right keen on walks. But then, we ate more than we, now I am left with visions of Dorset apple cake. Also, lemon drizzle. Lemon pudding. And scones (the real stuff, freshly baked). And pork in apple cider. Also pate. And chorizo sausages. Some paella. Kit Kats and Cadbury chocolate. Purbecks ice cream (Dorset cream and butterscotch). Wine, wine, wine...oh to be squiffy now that autumn's here....!

I guess I should feel guilty about all this. And work out or something. But as I still haven't met anyone since I've been back (except for little sister Julie who is very polite about these things) and not been subject to:

"Oh my goodness, you've put on like, what is it, 10 kilos over there?" (puffs out cheeks to demonstrate) "Why'd you have to eat so much? Exerciselar, that's the only thing for it. Also it would be better for you to cut down on your food intake. A grapefruit now and then should do it..."

I have not been sufficiently self disgusted into activity.

Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Tea, Vicar? or Poop poop

This post is dedicated to Jackie and Simon. There they are, posing with Ben and Tifanny (Ben and Tiffany are the ones with the fluffy ears).

Aren't they adorable?

I thought to give you a wordy account of my trip, starting from when I arrived at the airport (Heathrow, of course) and got mangled in a throng of the patiently weary travellers (so much so, that poor Simon who had arrived on time to pick me up had to wait all of two hours and drive back to Poole for about one and a half hours) to Jackie (who would have come but she was working, also she didn't realise the immigration would take as long as it did), but after making such a promising start (in wordiness, if nothing else, I am Indian after all, and wordiness is in the blood) I have decided to spare you.

OK Jack and Simon, this was going to be longer but I just received a call from the airport which has confirmed that my bag (oh happy day calloo callay) is in and I am off to get it.

I had a great time. We saw lots of things. They took me for tea in a variety of twee places. We went to Bath and Chawton and Steventon and had a real Jane Austen fest (during this time, I re-read Pride and Prejudice and watched the Colin Firth version as well as Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility) and indulged in an orgy of Austen-ism. Jackie and I have been fans since we were kids.

(Now that I have read her biography, I think that...OK, OK I won't spoil it for you. Just to tell you, I finished, this AM)

Simon and I earwigged on a variety of interesting conversations (Jackie is not as nosey as we are) and compared notes later. He was more discreet than I was. Hmmmm...have to work on that.

They both showed me the best time. This is the most fun I've ever had in that sceptred isle. (I think I got that quote wrong but I only read Richard II four times, only enough to pass the test, after which I forgot the quotes...yes? no?)

OK, off to airport now. Hope the customs people are kind. I am a bedraggled sorry sight and have not brushed my teeth in 48 hours (because my toothbrush was in my bag and I was too lazy to buy another)

Update: My suitcase (or rather, Julie's) is now safely in my hands. It has been unpacked. It is broken due to rough handling but the airline has promised to either fix or replace it. On the road to the airport the ornamental bougainvilla bushes started shedding petals which skittered across the street in a truly ghostly fashion, as if strewing the path for a wedding. I felt a little freaked out. Partly cos I had lost my way and ended up driving to Negri and doubling back.

I found the downy feather I picked up in a field near Longworth in my bag. Also the flint from Burley, the twig from Oxford and the conkers from wherever Simon's mother got them from. And the lavender from Sussex. But I lost the fragrant pine leaves from the tree at the back of Jane Austen's house. They all go into a magic England box. (I know I said I was no longer into kooky stuff...I lied)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Adventures of Polly the fiddle faddle

We went to Lulworth today, Jackie and I and (drum roll, please) we climbed this hill. It was a difficult hill. Ivan (my supposedly athletic brother) hardly made it up intact and the last time Jackie went, she was moaning softly. But the two of us, heroes that we are, decided to attempt it anyway (although Jack promised that if I was tired and wanted to rest, or that if I wanted to abandon said enterprise and go on down, she would be OK with that).

But my Malayalee pride was at stake. I silently promised myself that I would keep moaning to a minimum. And that I would keep on keeping on all the way to the top, no matter how crappy I (or Jackie) felt. Of course, as you probably know, it's much harder to resume if you stop halfway up a hill. So we puffed our way upwards, wheezing like steam engines (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I think I can, I think I can) but did we stop? No sir ree! Not even when snotty woman with child on her way down the hill, laughed at our gasping breaths. Not even when old man with stick in front of us stopped, purportedly to look at the view, but mainly because he wanted to have a rest.

We overtook him.

Then we got to the top, the views were stunning and we plumped ourselves on soft grass, took in the deep aquamarine waters, the hills all round ("That's Weymouth, I'm sure that's Weymouth, no wait a minute, that's Portland, OK, Portland...") and Jackie decided to take forty winks and I decided to read my Jane Austen biography.

The blessed silence was punctuated by my occassionally excited exclamations:

"Aiya, Warren Hastingslar, not Clive of India."

"Hey, you know ah, Jane Austen's aunt was very independent..."

"Hmmm, her father had an evil stepmother..."

To which Jackie would reply: "Jennifer! Stop telling me about it. I want to read for know ah, in an ideal world we would be reading the same book at exactly the same time, so there would be none of this bocor rahsiaing..." (letting the cat out of the bag)

Then I had my Kit Kat (Jackie didn't want hers) and the wind was up and the seagulls and crows flew overhead and there were some people around us and we had a short conversation about breaking wind in airplanes.

Then we tried to go to Tyneham, but apparently the village was closed so we went up to Creech Point and put up chairs (Jackie and Simon have these really cool fold-up chairs in the boot) and read our respective books (she was reading the Wodehouse biography which is also really cool)...and we looked at the rolling hills spread out all around, a glimpse of the sea, also the sheep and cows in the field and Jackie said the scene spread out before us reminded her of the Shire (if you don't know which Shire, brush up on your Tolkien, my brave hobbits) and then I got a headache due to excessive exposure to the sun and we got into the car and found a shortcut home. Part of the shortcut involved a journey on a tiny road:

Jackie: Look at this small, am never gonna listen to you again.

Me: Aiya, it is only 5 miles to Wareham on this road, it shortens our journey lar!

And then we arrived home semi-merrily and she made me scones and we had tea in their Royal Albert fine bone china and tried to crook our little fingers as we raised the pretty tea cups to our lips and sipped appreciatively.

"Darjeeling, old girl?"

"No thank you dear, I prefer Lapsang..."

Now she is on the sofa reading her book. And I will join her shortly reading mine.

Jackie once said that her tombstone will read:

"Mourners not welcome: I just want to read my book!"

Can you see the family resemblance?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bookshops I have known

The thing about a bookshop, especially a second hand one, is that it has nuances, slight (or major) differences and each has to be approached cautiously, skirting around at first (rather like Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, the Andrew Davies production). On no account are you to approach a bookshop directly, or, irritated by your clumsy arrogance, it will not yield up its delights to you, but keep them hidden, safe from your Philistine grasp.

"Go away please, we do not serve your kind here!"

Once you have made the approach in the required manner, you are allowed to raise your eyes to the volumes - old, new, paperback, possibly antiquarian? You take them in at a glance....oooh I like this bookshop, it has Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen biography. Ooooh I don't like this one, expensive, without taste...yes, you make your quick snap judgements, lower your eyes, once again and proceed to look for the shelf, your shelf, the one you came here to meet.

Once you find it....a certain rigidity takes your being and you sink down, goldfishy and subverbal. Please, please, leave me be for a while, I need to search, I need to run my fingertips over these precious spines, maybe take out a volume or two and open them and let that old book smell waft up to my nostrils.

Yes, OK, there is a kiddie size chair here I am going to wedge myself in and read the first few lines of this - Pelham Grenville? Who would have thought?

In Malaysia, it is definitely Kinokuniya, KLCC. Of course, Borders at the Curve is not bad and MPH at Megamall is sorta catching up. As for secondhand books, there is only Skoob, but you need to take a trip there, to the middle of nowhere, specially for your book expedition...there are treasures, but you have to be patient. Chat with Thor. Or his wife. They're both quite nice. Eccentric, but nice.

And in England - my favourite little second hand bookshop so far, has been in Winton. There are masses and masses of books, piled up on the floor, stacked in the shelves, still in boxes - you have to be patient enough to go through the untidy stacks, selecting the ones you want - presenting them to Mr Brown, who will usually say, £5 for three. If the books happen to be a little older, rarer, he may pause awhile, regard you quizically and tell you £15. But he usually shows you a cheaper alternative. If he has one. A genial soul, he keeps up an unending patter and laments the fact that people don't read books anymore. I wished myself upon him for a half day of work (he had let slip that he needed help arranging the books, never dreaming anyone would take him seriously, and I showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed, one windy Wednesday morning, and not knowing what to do with me, he set me to work with the old antiquarian books) Luvely luvely. Of course he cringed and snapped when I handled some with less than the required care. But he gave me a rare edition of Summoned by Bells by John Betjeman as payment. So cool! (Anyway, that one's Winton, in Bournemouth, OK?)

I loved the bookshop in Wimborne. It had the Jane Austen biography and the PG Wodehouse biography (by someone or other) so I considered it the best stocked second hand bookshop around these parts. When we went there was only a sullen teenager looking after the shop, staring into space (instead of reading a book, despite the riches all around, can you believe that?) but I still loved it.

The one at Lyme Regis (think Jane Austen's Persuasion) was pretty good, nice comfy sofas to sit on downstairs while you browsed through, and quite a few bargains for £1 each, but I still preferred the one in Wimborne.

We had a look-see at the secondhand bookshop in Dorchester but found it expensive and unimpressive. (The books were cold and forbidding, they didn't call, I didn't answer)

London, Charing Cross was so-so. Not as good as I expected or remembered. Neither was Foyle's, my favourite bookshop in all of England some 10 or 11 years ago, when I was here on assignment. (The other members of my troupe were off sightseeing. So was I. For me, bookshops are sight seeing). Borders was OK. I really needed to use the bathroom and they only had one. So, I didn't buy Paulo Coelho's new book there which was going for £3 pounds less although a cursory skim showed that this would be my kinda book.

Having said that, my bag is full of books. I am hauling back a frigging library.

And if you want me, I'll be at my club, er...bookshop.

Delete delete delete

Delete. Delete. Edit. Delete. Delete. Delete.

It's not that I have nothing to say. It's that I have too much.

So of course the words are all stuffed up, logjammed somewhere in my cerebral cortex.

In the meantime, for everything that comes out, delete. Edit. Delete. Delete. Edit.

If you have nothing material to say, chat about the weather....

So chappies and chappetes? How's the weather, eh?

Well pip pip then.

(And I meant it to sting!)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Call me Bubbles, darling, everyone does...

Jackie thinks I should tell you about our adventures today. Actually my adventures as she simply came along, observed, and giggled uproariously at me.

We went to Worth, Matravers, a twee seaside village on the Jurassic coast of Dorset. The velociraptors were grazing peacefully and they waved at us as we passed by. I found a fossil but Jackie made me throw it back because it belonged rightly to the British government and as we know they are very protective over their fossils. (she told me to tell you that I then hit her on the head with said fossil to make me sound like a bully, but you know, that I am too nice to do any such thing, Jackie said to tell you also, that I laughed uproariously on hearing the thwack of bone on bone, but hehe, I didn't really)

Anyway, that was a diversion. What I actually wanted to tell you was that I was a hero. Jackie suggested that we should have a pleasant walk on the coastal road. I said, no, no, let's go down to the beach.

Note: The way to the beach was long and treacherously downhill. There were bits where we had to sit on the muddy ground and slide on our bottoms. There were other bits where we had to fight our way through brambles.

Further note: I thought this would be fun.

It was.

Then we had to climb back up again.

Jackie, who is much fitter than me, was a speck in the distance all the way up. She was kind enough to stop halfway to let me rest. I was wheezing like a choo choo train, my heart pounding like a big brass knocker in a manor house. We waited a while and I lay down on this nice grass and wished I didn't have to get up and make my way up this steep steep hill. Jackie was careful to hide her amusement until we had made our way up the hill and were walking along the gentle paths of the coastal road. The road she had originally wanted to take me on. The one I would have enjoyed tremendously without the brambles and the sandy bits and the sliding on bottoms and the Everest-y ascent.

So, anyway, call me Bubbles, darling, everyone does.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Something is happening, only I don't know what

Something is happening but I don't know what. Ever get that feeling? There you are, stretched out on the sofa, watching some lame tv serial that you don't even understand because there are no subtitles and suddenly, you think, geez, is there any chocolate left.

There isn't. What is the point of living when there is no chocolate within crawling distance?

Think the Dave Matthews Band.

Oh, wow, look at you now
flowers in the window
It's such a lovely day
and I'm glad you feel the same
Cos to stand up, out in the crowd
You are one in a million
And I love you so
Let's watch the flowers grow

I know this is Travis.

But I had a point with the whole Dave Matthews thing. I was gonna link my point but can't find it, and anyway, you know the video I am talking about, right? You know, the one with the ultimate couch potato? The one with the cathether, so he didn't even have to get up to go to the bathroom?

Anyway, so I just finished Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas which I enjoyed (I love, love, love women who declare themselves geniuses, go Winterson! go go Stein!) and I realised that I had had a surfeit of male writers (good as they are) and was direly in need of feminine ecriture. When I did Greek Myths (of course, I did an essay on women in greek myths), I learned that women are just this side of civilized (I'm not talking about mem sahibs here, but then, even they have torrid affairs, which means there's still hope) and I rejoiced in thinking of myself as something not quite quite.

Yes, I read poetry and write articles about venture capital, but I suspect I'm only pretending. (Mum has just come into the room and she is opening a present from one of her Japanese students, which is wrapped so well that it seems a pity to open it, they are so civilized, except at night, I know what I'm talking about, I was over there for an economic tour when I was 21 and a really ugly editor from the only English business newspaper slobbered all over me, nudge nudge wink wink, I was so flattered I wanted to bite him, and not in a nice way)

Anyway, I thought I should say hi. Because I'm off to see the Queen. Or a whole bunch of queens. (I love queens, fag hag, that's me, everyone should be gay, then there would be no babies and the population would not explode, and we would die out as a species, which would be a bad thing, a very bad thing, or would it?)

No, I'm not drunk. At least, I've had a cuppa. But tea, not gin. Yet I feel strangely unhinged.

Maybe the veneer of civilization is finally wearing off.

It took long enough.

So did I fool you?